Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Teaching Young Men About Rape

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a really fantastic story from this weekend about universities that are making efforts to reduce sexual assault by changing male culture. The programs address everything from how women might say no (body tension is a clear signal) to popular culture and even have some measure of success:
First-year fraternity men who saw a specific rape prevention program were nearly half as likely to commit a sexually coercive act as those who didn't, according to a 2007 study co-authored by John Foubert, a professor who developed the nonprofit One in Four, a group aimed at changing male behavior.
The idea here is right. Instead of placing the burden on women to be "careful" and council them on how to avoid rape (as if there's a surefire way to do that), these programs are telling men that they need to be accountable for the actions they take. It's reassuring that these programs are getting implemented at the collegiate level, the time in women's life when they are most likely to be victim to a date or acquaintance rape. But there are programs that address men at a younger age.

Men Can Stop Rape is a D.C.-based program that works with high school students to make them more aware of what rape is, to back of when women reject advances, and how to open the discussion up about rape with friends. The program is unique because it focuses on a male mentoring program. Unfortunately the best way to teach these young men is to hear about showing respect for women from other men.

The best way to change men's misconceptions about rape is to start early. I'd almost argue that high school is even too late, and that when public schools teach the "birds and the bees" they should also be taught some hard lessons about how rape seeps into our culture. It's important to challenge it, not meet it with indifference.

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